Tyler Andrews, videographer for Fishing With Joe Bucher, releases a nice muskie caught in the spring. The muskie fishing season opens this Saturday. —Photo By Joe Bucher
Tyler Andrews, videographer for Fishing With Joe Bucher, releases a nice muskie caught in the spring. The muskie fishing season opens this Saturday. —Photo By Joe Bucher
If there’s one thing above all else that has worked well for me in my search for active early season muskies, it has been finding warming water. 

Of course, not all the muskies in any one given body of water will be in this warm water hotspot. However, it’s a good bet the ones using that particular area are sure to be much more active. 

Therefore, a key strategy involves targeting sun-exposed spots likely to contain the warmest water. Time of day and the amount of actual sunlight are sure to have a huge bearing on this scenario.

For example, a shallow northeastern bay might have water temperatures in the low 50s on any given spring morning. If the prior night was cold and clear, water temps could be even colder. Morning muskie action as well as any other fish activity in this bay is doubtful. 

But four to six hours later water temps might climb as much as 4 to 10 degrees. This is especially possible on a cloudless day with strong sunlight and a northerly wind direction. 

A period check of such a northern bay throughout your day of fishing often reveals startling developments when the conditions are right. This same bay, dead and lifeless in the morning, may now have minnows cruising the warmed surface waters as well as some bass, crappies and perch. 

All of this, in turn, attracts the larger predators such as pike and muskies to investigate possible feeding opportunities. In fact, this is one of the big visual keys beyond watching a water temp gauge. Visual signs of baitfish and overall fish life offer promise that a muskie is also lurking nearby.

Muskies are apt to be hanging out in a wide range of habitat in these warm water areas. It all depends upon what is available on any given lake, river or flowage. It could be a sandy flat with reeds or short grass. It could also be small short patches of newly forming weeds. 

In some cases, fallen trees, stumps and brush are the ticket. Yet, I’ve also seen muskies just cruising around on clean sandy flats, too. If warm water and baitfish are present, muskies will no doubt be there somewhere.

Likely hangouts are not always easy to find since they might be submerged. Some of the best early season areas contain nothing more than dark patches on a featureless flat invisible above the water’s surface and difficult to detect with sonar. In fact, you might spot them best with pair of good polarized glasses. Fan casting these spots is the best approach with lures that travel very shallow. 

Lure choice

My favorite lure choice here is a 4- to 5-inch in-line classic muskie spinner. Large bass swim jigs can really get in this instance, too. If you actually spot a shallow muskie up on a sun-baked flat, don’t cast right to the fish. Instead, cast far out in front of them and overshoot them by quite a bit so splash entry of the lure doesn’t startle ’em. Perfect cast placement and timing to the fish’s forward movement is often key to triggering a strike. 

If you do spot emergent reeds or thicker clumps of higher weed growth, it’s a good bet that is going to be a muskie magnet. The same in-line spinner or swim jig is likely to work, but I would add a single hook muskie-sized spinnerbait to this mix in this instance.

If the cover is reeds or wood of any kind, the single hook design of the swim jig and spinnerbait is essential. Otherwise you will snag up far too often, spook fish and ruin your chances. 

When working these single hook baits through cover, keep your rod tip pointed right at the lure and avoid yanking or jerking on your rod tip every time the bait collides with cover. Instead, simply reel it thru the obstructions. As soon as the lure clears the cover, a muskie is most likely to strike. 

Weather a factor

Weather is always a factor in muskie fishing and springtime offers up surprisingly unique triggers. The influence of solar heat and sunlight are usually huge factors early in the season. 

While muskie anglers generally crave dark overcast, nasty, misty, rainy conditions, this is not always optimum for early spring activity. Sunlight and the resulting solar heat create dramatic positive effects for the entire food chain including muskies. Rarely does a body of water actually experience a rising water temperature during periods of overcast. It takes sunlight to make this happen.

However, a cloudy day after several sunny days and a nice early season warming trend can be great for clear water muskies, but it rarely works the other way around. 

If you don’t get the warming trend beforehand, the overcast day rarely produces dramatic results. You need the heat beforehand for the whole thing to really work.

Wind and wave action are often sought out by muskie anglers, yet this is not always an ideal scenario in the spring. 

Calm, wind-protected, sun-baked areas generate more solar heat penetration during the early season, drawing in baitfish and muskies. Chilly north blowing wind cools water down. However, a warming trend with southerly breezes, increased humidity and cloud cover after a few days of sunlight can be magic.

Now, you might not be able to see shallow cruising muskies due to wave action, but they are likely there and ready to bite!